A portentous silouhette in the distance, the forbidding form of a gigantic slithering snake seems an impossible sight as it appears to be emerging from the Loire river and making its way back to land. The shape of its spine echoes the curve of the Saint-Nazaire bridge at the tip of the Nez de Chien fort, near Nantes, at point where the river meets the ocean. Chinese sculptor Huang Yong Ping’s whopping metal skeleton of a huge sea-serpent measures 425 feet (130 meters) in length, as reported by This Colossal.
By having a major figure from Chinese mythology appear on European shores, Huang Yong Ping examines, the notions of identity and cultural hybridity, as is often the case in his work. The environmental question is also very present in his art where he regularly exposes the paradox of the man sawing the branch he is sitting on, torn between creative abilities and destructive impulses. This is one of the many possible interpretations of this work: placed on the beach, the skeleton appears with the tide and, little by little, will be home to marine fauna and flora.
It is called Serpent d’Océan, but is not the skeleton of an animal that actually existed, in fact it’s a sculpture located in Saint-Brévin-les-Pins, near Nantes, in correspondence with the estuary of the Loire river. The author is the artist Huang Yong Ping, of Chinese origins and French national, who used the traditional iconography of China’s mythological dragons to design the approximately 130-meters-long art monster. The artist completed the work in 2012, when was unveiled as part of the Estuaire art exhibition which invites international artists to create large-scale works using the environment surrounding the Loire River between Nantes to Saint-Nazaire.
The skeleton is made of aluminum and is continuously covered and discovered by the tide, as if it were a paleontological remnant that appears and disappears on the basis of natural cycles. The beast is posed in slithering movement despite being nothing more than bones, giving an unsettlingly lifelike quality. The curve of the backbone of the snake follows the shape of the nearby bridge of Saint Nazaire, harmonizing the insertion of the creature with the surrounding environment.
Despite being an immobile skeleton, the “Serpent d’Océan” conveys a pure sense of movement, in fact the term tail with a thin appendage seems to push the animal towards the water’s edge, and the variation of the level of the tides make the work of art illusorily “alive”. The work, thanks to its size, is visible also on the Google Maps satellites!
The message behind this opera it’s probably one of environmental nostalgia, as though man’s mistreatment of the oceans is killing not only its life, but its very wonder and fantasy.
A curiosity? Despite the 130 meters of the sculpture are very impressive, in 2016 Yong Ping overcame, creating a 240-meter snake, now at the Grand Palais in Paris!
Huang Yong PING – Serpent d’océan – Kamel Mennour, photo by Gino Maccarinelli